Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Relating

Have you ever read House of Mirth?

I'm only a third of the way through the book so there will be no spoilers, I promise.  

Anyway, from page one of this book, my heart has been bleeding for the main character, Lily Bart.  She's "twenty nine and unmarried in a society and connection where those who have failed to get married are simply those who have failed to get a man."  Wait, wrong book but similar idea.

She's been out (in the nineteenth century sense) for 11 seasons and has yet to land herself a rich husband.  At this point, I haven't heard too much about her previous 11 years of conquests (except that she was in love only once).  However, we are immediately thrown into her current state and dilemmas accompanying them.

While reading this book, I often think, "Lily and I are the same person!"

Reading it last night, though, I stopped myself.  "The same person how?!"

Lily is a poor girl, yes, but she was raised as a rich debutante in fashionable and extravagant New York Society in the early 1900's.

Sure, she's around 30 and unmarried, but she is more concerned about her future husband having a fat bank book rather than any other important qualities.

And then, the husband of her friend handed over a check for five hundred dollars and suddenly wanted to be all chummy with her.  I'm being generous in my description of chummy.  I really mean, he would have had no qualms about breaking any of his marital vows if Lily even so much as encouraged him a little.

All of that gave me the biggest pause.  Five hundred dollars in 1905?  Having an affair with a married man?  I gasp in shock at how different our situations are.

And yet, the underlying issues are still there, those issues that have me feeling a bond to this character: She's torn between obligations and expectations of the society she lives in with her own desires and impulses for happiness and freedom.  But do you reconcile the two when you don't have the means, when you're living from day-to-day and struggling to keep your head above water?  

I felt her desperation from the very first page.  She's a person who is inwardly anxious and terrified but outwardly, confident and calculating.  Except she keeps making these mistakes that end her in the above blunder .  Instead, I can only hope that she won't give up and will do her very best to rise above her current situation.  

"Don't give up, Er...erm...Lily!  Don't give up...ever!"

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